Faction Eli’s mother stood silently, as if she

Faction 13Eli navigated the littered streets of Sub-Faction 13, home to the hopeless. The gray sky glowed subtly with the pink hue of the barrier. Even through the thick smoke of the working-class city, Eli could make out the flowing lines of the dome-shaped force field. If he cared to adjust his vision, he could make out the floating homes of the upper class. Not that he cared to. Director Kroenen lived up there. Kroenen and his class division had left Faction 13 a landscape of smokestacks and slums, while the elite lived in golden, pristine fortresses looking down upon the remains of a society. Eli grimaced in disdain. Was it that he was the only one who cared to look up into the skies, up from the dismal life of a sub-factioner? Or was it that he was the only one that desired freedom? Eli parked his bike at the side of his decrepit home. He was greeted by a familiar face.”Where have you been?””Hi, Mom, good to see you,” Eli muttered snidely, making his way to the kitchen.”You know I’ve been worried sick. I don’t like you out this late. There are sentinels out there. It’s dangerous for just a boy…”    “I can hold my own,” he offered apathetically.”Elijah, they’re monsters! These are not people out there! They will kill you if they get the chance,” the woman’s tone grew grim. Eli flashed a look of agitation at his mother.”What, like dad? You think I’m gonna give them the chance?” he spat. “You’re afraid they’re gonna haul me off in their big ol’ robot claws because I’m gonna go ranting around in the street? Dad was crazy,” he huffed. Eli’s mother stood silently, as if she were broken. Eli headed up the stairs, and paused. He let out a sigh. “Look, mom. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m not going anywhere.” He turned around to view the fragile woman. A gray lock of hair hung over her weathered forehead, pointing to a tear crawling down her face. “I don’t want to lose you,” she whispered. You’re all I have left.”    Eli slammed the wooden door to his room in a storm, and paused at the familiar sound of the sentinels outside his window. The streets were full of them. Metal giants that carried out Kroenen’s law without the chance of human error. No emotions, no morals, no consciousness. During the night, the red glow of their eyes filled Eli’s room as they skimmed the streets for crime. People said that the sentinels were here because Kroenen either had too much pride or was too much of a coward to face the mess he created. Either way, Eli resented them. He resented Kroenen, and his oppressive rules. He resented the sentinels for what they were. Tools to keep sub-factioners in check.    Eli’s father was one of the only men to stand up against Kroenen’s tools. He was just a man who wanted to be free. He wanted to see the sunlight. That was enough for the sentinels to take him away. Eli knew that if he tried to act out, the same would happen to him. A word of dissatisfaction, an utterance of resentment, a whisper of rebellion, and the boy who spoke out would disappear.    Eli brought himself to go back into his father’s office. It had been 8 months since his father was arrested. He entered the dark room, and a dusty atmosphere greeted him indifferently. Eli choked on the airborne neglect as he made his way to his father’s desk. He approached a journal that sat open in the center of the desk, and began to read. Skimming the dusty, brown pages, Eli stopped when he saw something that caught his eye.Kroenen’s rule will come to an end. He is a power-hungry coward and a fool. He hides behind these machines, never to show his face to the common people. The man is a faulty ruler and undeserving of holding leadership. Say goodbye to your crown, your slaves, and your place among the clouds, tyrant. I’m dragging you down.Eli sat in awe. He did not know what to think. He skimmed the page one more time, taking in every leathery, dust-coated drop of wisdom/insanity. Carefully scanning his father’s psyche, a thought occurred to Eli. His father was taken not because he spoke up, but because he actually tried to take down Kroenen himself. “What a guy,” Eli sighed to himself, half-jokingly.He closed the journal, and set it down on its antiquated bed. Thinking to himself, something caught the corner of his eye. A muted shimmer in the corner of his father’s desk peeked from beneath a pile of manila envelopes. Eli reached for the beckoning treasure, and gripped the finding in his hand. A revolver. Twice the size of any particle beam pistol he’d ever seen; the thing must have been a thousand years old. Eli ran his hand along the long barrel of the revolver. It was cool to the touch.Suddenly, a harsh, electronic voice filled his ears. “SUB-FACTION 13 CURFEW IS NOW IN EFFECT,” the voltaic accent echoed throughout the streets. The red glow of the sentinel’s eyes began to replace the warm yellow luminescence of the streetlights. “CITIZENS OUTSIDE OF THEIR RESIDENCES ARE SUBJECT TO IMMEDIATE ARREST,” the voice shrieked once more. The cold, buzzing voice of the sentinel sent vibrations down Eli’s spine as he gripped the sleek weapon even tighter. The voice chimed in again. “TERMS OF RETRIBUTION FOR CURFEW VIOLATORS ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE, AND AT THE COMPLETE DISCRETION OF DIRECTOR KROENEN. HEARINGS WILL NOT BE NECESSARY.”The name of the tyrant aggravated him. “WE,” it said, and Eli shuttered. “ARE.” He ground his teeth painfully. “WATCHING.”Eli gripped the handle of the weapon until his knuckles turned white. Clouds of negative emotions crept into his mind. He lived under the watch of beings with no souls, and at the mercy of a man who never shows his face. And what about his father? A man he hardly knew until now, swept up by the tools of a cowardly miser for doing what was right. Eli had had enough.He swung open his front door with a loud slam. The harsh red light of the sentinels bathed him in a terrifying glow of inhumanity. Eli paused to let his senses adjust, when an imposing shadow came over him. Seven feet tall and ten above the sidewalk, an enormous metal beast loomed before him. The pulsating hum of its gravity lifts made Eli’s ears ache and the red light nearly blinded him. Eli fingered the handle of the revolver in his coat pocket to make sure it was still there. His knees trembled before the monster, but he did not run inside. The machine stayed mute. Eli could tell it was reading him. Its red eye dilated and whirred as it gathered information about the boy. He let it.Eli gritted his teeth. Squinting under the crimson glare, he tried to stand his ground. He had never come so close to a sentinel before. It’s eye was a vacant, soulless disc of blood red apathy. While he stood his ground against the behemoth, Eli couldn’t help but feel disturbed by the visage. “What are you gonna do about it?!” Eli shouted. He tried to sound tough, but his voice vibrated from nervousness. The sentinel regarded him indifferently. Just as it had been programmed to do, it warned the fragile human of the gravity of its mistake. “CITIZEN,” it bellowed in its mechanical timbre. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST FOR VIOLATING SUB-FACTION 13 ORDINANCE 4182. FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE”.    With the weight of the revolver still hung in his coat, Eli put forth his wrists. The sentinel paused for a moment, before releasing a loud baritone of mechanized sounds. With a jolting of its bulky, claw-like hands, the machine grasped Eli and raised him at level with its large, vacuous eye. Eli stared straight into the eye of the beast, steel hands tight around his body. Eyes are the windows to the soul, he had always heard, but Eli knew that he was looking through a window that was boarded up.    As though he were becoming lost in the giant’s gaze, Eli felt himself floating away from the real world. The ground of Sub-Faction 13 grew less and less real as he stared into the red disc. The buildings and streets of his home faded away beneath him, the tangibility of his own reality began to slip away from under his feet. Up, up, and away they went. The poor boy, from the poor city, and the iron giant ascended into the gray clouds.    Eli came to with a zealous gasp for air. He took a moment to try and calibrate himself, as something felt drastically different about where he was. He sat in a golden metal chair. Gold pillars surrounded him, standing taller than the sentinels they accompanied. The floor was an immaculately polished silver that reflected every beam of light in the palace… or prison. Amongst the ornately decorated gold furnishings, large red eyes stood watching him vigilantly. He felt in his right coat pocket for his father’s revolver before seeing that familiar silver glint on a lonely desk across the spacious room. There the gun laid, on a platform of gold this time. However, attached to that gun was a hand, and attached to that hand was a man.The man stood up from his golden desk and began to move toward Eli, casually toting the large pistol. The unfamiliar man walked toward Eli with a gentle sway. He had powerful shoulders, slick black hair and and a leathery complexion. He sat down in a golden chair across from Eli with a comfortable sigh. The stranger leaned forward, looked Eli in the eyes, and offered a warm smile.”You must be Harry’s kid,” he said, grinning. Eli froze up.    “I’m Elijah Kovac,” he muttered, trying to maintain an illusion of indifference.    “That’s quite a piece you got here,” the man said admiringly, nodding to the gun. He pointed the nose of the revolver at Eli casually, who flinched skittishly. The man put the revolver on the silver floor.”I know why you’re here, Elijah. You came to off me just like your father tried to those many months ago. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not going to work,” he chuckled lightheartedly. Eli stared at the man in shock.    “Y-you’re –” Eli stuttered    “I think you know who I am,” the man affirmed. “If you don’t and you’re just as stupid as your father, may he rest in peace, my name is Curtis Kroenen.” A silence fell in the golden room. “What’s the matter, sentinel got your tongue?” he chuckled, amused at his own wit. Eli swallowed what felt like a ball of steel wool before uttering a few words.    “You… you killed him,” he trembled.    “No, no, heavens no. My boys do all that dirty work for me. You met KS-13421, didn’t you? The autonomous gentleman who gave you a… lift up here?” he grinned again, savoring his own delicious witticisms. Eli eyeballed the cold monster off to his left, dumbfounded that anyone could regard that atrocity with such camaraderie.”Didn’t your mother tell you it’s not polite to stare, Elijah?” Kroenen said with a serious face. Eli forced his attention to the tyrant. Kroenen reverted back to his unsettlingly affable charm. “Your father was a real thorn in my side, Elijah. Well, better than a bullet in my head I suppose,” he teased. “In fact, I have yet to see a rose sprout from that miserable sub-faction you call home,” he went on ruminatively.    “You created that miserable sub-faction,” Eli gained the courage to say. Kroenen looked up at him with a somber expression.    “I had to do that. You see, in every society, since the dawn of time, there has been inequality. Some cavemen were weaker than others, therefore they were less respected. King Louis the Sixteenth and his nobles ruled over the uneducated peasants. A race of people were enslaved because of the color of their skin, my dear boy.” Eli stayed quiet.”You could say it is almost the natural order of things. Inequality, that is. Up until the great divide, it had been so. The United States of America fell apart because of bias and prejudice, Elijah, and I put this barrier up to protect us from a greater disparity. Until this rock we live on is no more than a smoldering heap of rubble, there will continue to be inequality. And you know what will happen then, son?” he got up, brushed off his coat, and regarded Eli pleasantly. “The world may just be at peace.”Kroenen bent down and handed Eli the shining revolver. Eli simply sat in the golden chair and did nothing but hold on to his father’s possession, caressing the leather handle. Kroenen was yards behind him now, approaching the golden doors of an elevator. Kroenen said one last thing before leaving the sub-factioner.”Hold fast to that inequality, Elijah. It’s human nature.”